Challenges and obstacles are the only certainty when it comes to how a city spends its money, but the budget provides details regarding city plans for how tax dollars are spent, the direction the city is heading, and even how little-known decisions in other spaces will impact Keizer for years to come.
Keizer Finance Director Tim Wood called the city’s Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) “the black eye I’m just waiting to take every two years.” PERS is the pension plan for public employees and is either under constant political assault or in danger of not being able to keep promises made.
Keizer contributes a certain amount to the fund every year to help with unfunded obligations but, every two years, the amount is adjusted. Typically it comes in the form of an increase.
Wood expects the city will be required to pay an additional $410,000 into PERS each year for the next two years.
“That will be a $269,000 hit to the general fund or about 1.5 police officer salaries and benefits,” Wood said. Funding for police department staff is sourced from the city’s general fund.
The city, for the time being, is planning to increase its police services fee by $1. However, that increase would only pay for the continued costs of the officers originally hired when the fee was adopted.
In an earlier budget forecast, the city planned to request a $2-per-month increase, but Wood said savings in other spaces allowed for the smaller request.
“It was a matter of timing, our original projection was based on a smaller range of data. We had some additional savings that factored in that made a difference,” Wood said.
Another fee the city collects pays for maintenance and improvements at Keizer Parks. It is expected to continue at $4 per month. That fund made possible new playgrounds, sports courts and other facilities and more consistent schedules for maintenance activities such as mowing.
In the next year, the fee is expected to help pay for two new picnic shelters at Keizer Rapids Park, ADA upgrades at Bob Newton Park and lighting along a pathway in Bair Park. Plans to irrigate and seed a field at Keizer Little League Park were on the board but the bids came in higher than expected. It may or may not get underway by the end of the next fiscal year.
Another line-item in the budget suffered a devastating cut resulting from a 2008 decision by the Federal Communications Commission. The broadcast of public meetings on Keizer 23 has largely been paid for through Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) fees collected from cable franchise holders. Comcast/Xfinity is the license holder for Keizer.
In 2008, the FCC board members changed the rules guiding PEG funds and said they could only be used for the purchase of broadcasting equipment, not the associated services (jobs) needed to run a broadcast.
Cable television providers championed the change while cities and states challenged it in court, the providers eventually won. As a result, Keizer’s PEG fees will decrease from $135,000 to $68,000.
“That means we will have to transition to something that takes less manpower, and figure out what we want to continue to broadcast and make adjustments,” Wood said.